Many people convicted of a felony say, “If I do not go to jail, everything is okay.” However, a felony conviction carries consequence beyond prison time. The negative consequences of a felony conviction include those that are intended to be implemented by law. For example, losing the right to vote, no possession of firearms, prohibition of practicing certain trades and professions are some of the intended consequences of a felony conviction. Unintended consequences also result from felony convictions.
Unemployment and homelessness frequently are the inevitable results of a felony conviction. For example, an article published by the New York Times asserts that ex-inmates have a 50% unemployment rate nine months to a year after their release. The consequences of unemployment are obvious. Scholarly studies and common knowledge also indicate that employers are less apt to hire former offenders regardless of whether the offender pulled active time. The resulting homelessness and desperation for money resulting from unemployment can easily lead to a repeat offense.
Finding a place to live can also be an issue. Property owners can ask a person about prior convictions on rental applications and refuse to rent to an individual based on prior convictions. Property owners will be even more reluctant to rent to an individual on the sexual offender list. They may have valid concerns about the safety of other tenants in the vicinity, but also landlords want to protect their investment. The presence of a person on the sexual offender list makes it more difficult for the landlord to rent other apartments or homes that are in the immediate vicinity. In addition, the law restricts some individuals on the sexual offender list from living within 1,000 feet of public or private schools. (See Arizona Revised Statute 13-3727).
A felony conviction also jeopardizes educational opportunities. Some colleges and community colleges may deny you admission depending on the conviction. The purpose is to maintain a safe environment on college campuses. Typically, violent offenses and drug offenses create the greatest barrier to college admission. Another barrier to higher education is that the government may deny people with drug offenses federal grants and other forms of student aid. In addition, students with sexual assault charges can be barred from receiving Pell Grants and other forms of federal student aid. For additional information, see the following site, studentaid.ed.gov. However, if you are seeking a higher education and have a felony conviction, do not give up. Some colleges may reject you and some aid may not be available, but that does not mean every college will reject your application. Also, other sources of financial aid may be available.
If you have a conviction on your record and want to attend college, consult with college admission officials and financial aid officers.
The bias against convicted felons can accumulate and create a vicious cycle. For example, a prior offender in a rural area may not have access to public transportation. He finds a job, but his boss fires him because he misses too many days at work. He is absent from work because he does not have a car and has to rely on other people to get him to his job. But he cannot buy a car because he does not have a job and a bank will not loan him money unless he has a work history. Inarguably, anyone without resources can be caught in the same cycle.
However, convicted felons have a steeper hill to climb in just finding a job. The reality is that people do judge and may not be as willing to lend a hand to a convicted felon as they would a single mother with a clean record.
This scenario is presented not to discourage a person from trying to improve their situation. However, this is a warning. If you are facing a felony charge, or any criminal charge, there is more to look at than how much time you might get and what are the conditions of probation. The decision to go to trial or take a plea is critically important. You should consider many different factors. Some district attorneys will offer a plea bargain and the defendant is placed on probation. Upfront it sounds like a good deal, no time served and you walk out of the courtroom. However, you still must comply with probation. The probation requirements may include unannounced inspections of your home and restrictions concerning with whom you associate, where you travel, and when you can leave your house. Moreover, probation fees will also be part of your sentence.
After dealing with the direct consequences of a felony conviction, you may face other obstacles. Finding a job, a place to live, and getting an education becomes more difficult. Ironically, everyone will encourage you to pick yourself up, make things better for yourself and then place obstacles in the way when you do try to do just that.
That is why it is so important to consult with an experienced criminal law attorney if you are facing felony charges. The district attorney may offer what seems like a sweetheart deal, but the penalty occurs on the backside and may not be contained in the statutes. If you already have a felony conviction, a criminal law attorney can review your case. He can see if relief is available from the courts in cleaning up your record. Howard Snader is an experienced criminal law attorney. He knows a felony conviction can be a life-changing event and will fight for you every step of the way. To schedule your appointment, call 602-899-0590.